Making Moves

Posted: April 1st, 2014 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 121 Comments »

DeSean Jackson has yet to sign with the Skins, but that seems like the place he’ll end up. My guess is that the Skins aren’t offering as much money as he’d like, but the sides are tying to work something out. A few people have responded to the news of DeSean to the Skins with something like this…”I knew this would happen. Cutting DeSean is going to blow up in the Eagles face. They’ll regret this for a long time.”

No matter how much you might hate the move or it might bug you that they got no compensation, do understand that this wasn’t some knee-jerk move by the Eagles. They knew exactly what they were doing. They knew DeSean could go to a division rival or to some NFC team that they could battle for a playoff spot.

Whether it was Chip Kelly or Howie Roseman that pushed more for the move, you can bet that both guys and owner Jeff Lurie were all on board with the decision. The Eagles are prepared to deal with the backlash of this move, both on and off the field.

By making such a dramatic move, the Eagles opened themselves up to all kinds of criticism. They are going to hear about it every time DeSean scores a TD. They’ll be mocked when he makes some huge plays this season, which a player of DeSean’s caliber is going to do. As much as that should make you scratch your head about why the Eagles would make such a bizarre move, it should also make you understand how strongly they felt about the move.

You don’t cut one of your most talented players on a whim. The Eagles think they can replace him on the field and actually get better off the field with DeSean gone.

No one denies that this move could bite the Eagles in the butt. This move absolutely carries risk with it.

Some of you say that the move just shows that Chip Kelly is arrogant. To a certain extent, I think the move does show some arrogance. But I’m not sure that is a bad thing. Andy Reid was a pretty dogmatic guy early on in Philly. He started compromising left and right later in his time with the Eagles and the team fell apart. Clearly that’s not the only reason, but I do think it had some effect.

Reid came to the Eagles with a plan. He thought about the long term and building a program. By the end of his time he was living in the moment and plans changed on a regular basis. The team did not respond well to that.

Like Reid, Kelly came to the Eagles with a plan. He has one eye on the present and one on the future. Kelly is trying to build the Eagles into a very specific kind of football program. The team responded well to the changes and moves of 2013. Now the test is to see how they handle Year 2.

Cutting DeSean is easily the most controversial move of the Kelly era. I don’t think that bothers Kelly one bit and that’s the one good thing about this move. Kelly isn’t afraid to go out on a limb. He’s got a very specific vision for how he wants the team. Kelly is going to do whatever it takes to get the team to that point.

Time will tell if he’s right (maybe), but I do think you need a coach who has that kind of confidence in his beliefs. You’re not going to build a great team playing it safe. You will need to take some chances.

I’m glad Kelly is the kind of coach that is willing to make bold moves. I just hope that bold moves in the future make a bit more sense.

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Eagles Notebook

Posted: April 1st, 2014 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 83 Comments »

The Texans released Safety Danieal Manning the other day and a few fans have asked about whether the Eagles should be interested. I haven’t had a chance to watch any tape on Manning. Would the Eagles be interested in another veteran S? Adam Caplan said this on Twitter recently.

Interesting. The Eagles might be open to adding another veteran. I don’t know if Manning is that guy. He’s getting ready to turn 32. The Texans wanted him to take a pay cut, but he refused. He doesn’t seem like a guy the Eagles would go for, but I can’t completely rule out the idea. Just think of it as doubtful.

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Another note from Caplan.

I’m not sure that means a whole lot, but it is interesting that they made the adjustment. The Eagles obviously saw some advantage to it.

* * * * *

Many of you still want an explanation from the Eagles in regard to DeSean. You’ll get some comments eventually, but they will never satisfy you with a long, detailed explanation of how and why things went down as they did. There isn’t just one thing. This is a combination of things. The Eagles, like all teams, prefer secrecy to being an open book. They aren’t going to offer details on who thought what and when this all happened and if there was one event that broke the camel’s back, so to speak.

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One question regularly posed by some is this…are the Eagles a better team now with DeSean gone?

Obviously they want you to say “no” and then try to explain how dumb the Eagles are for making the move. I completely get that mentality and the logic behind it.

I think asking if the team is better is impossible to answer. The team is less talented. There is no question about that. You can’t take away the team’s best WR and not lose talent. Better? That’s more complicated. Football teams are like annual chemistry experiments. You add this and adjust that and see what happens.

I can’t tell you how the 2014 Eagles are going to perform. It is possible that they will be better. Jeremy Maclin could have a monster year. The Eagles could add some stud rookie who turns out to be a dominant player. Maybe Darren Sproles is an impact player. Maybe Zach Ertz has a breakout season and turns into a huge weapon.

It is also possible that the Eagles will miss DeSean and the offense will struggle at times.

I think we need to see the rest of the spring before making any predictions and even then…we’ll be guessing. Time will tell if the team is better off or not. We can all throw up opinions on the move, but we won’t have answers until we see how things play out on the field (and off it to a certain extent).

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Eagles Add an OL

Posted: April 1st, 2014 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 102 Comments »

The Eagles signed OL Andrew Gardner on Monday. You’ll never guess where he came from…the Texans. Here are some of the details on him from Jeff McLane.

The 6-foot-6, 309-pound Gardner last played for the Texans. He played in six games in three seasons for Houston. His only other NFL game came as a rookie for the Dolphins in 2009. Gardner, 27, was drafted out of Georgia Tech by Miami in the sixth round.

Gardner was released by the Dolphins before the 2010 season. He then spent time with the Ravens, Vikings and Bengals before the Texans signed him in Aug. 2011.

Gardner lists as an OT, but coming out of college I thought he could play there or OG.  Here are my old notes on him.

4-year starter at LT. That automatically gets your attention. Marginal pass blocker. Solid run blocker. Fires off the ball. Good on the 2nd level. Has a tall, thin build which is best suited for T, but his skill set might be better at G. Only so-so agility. At times he will be too upright and that forces him to reach/lunge for defenders. Could be a good fit for teams like the Falcons or Texans. Has a lot of potential, but needs coaching and to be in the right system.

Late round target or UDFA.

Interesting that I projected him to the Falcons or Texans and he ended up in Houston for 3 years. Gardner is coming here as an experienced camp body. The Eagles will give him every chance to win a job, but he’s got an uphill battle. I do think he fits the system and he’s got the kind of build that Chip Kelly will love.

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One part of the DeSean saga that drives me nuts is the “How can you give a racist a contract extension and let go of the other guy?” stuff I’m seeing from some media members/analysts on Twitter. DeSean and Riley Cooper have completely different situations.

Cooper did a horrible thing…but it didn’t involve the team. That was a concert. Players certainly reacted to what Cooper did, but it was all after the fact. Cooper’s behavior with his teammates has apparently never been an issue. He had several teammates stand up strongly in his favor and they did this in the locker room, looking other guys in the eye.

That was also an incident and not a pattern of behavior. That makes it a huge difference from DeSean and his situation.

DeSean has been making some questionable decisions going back to his college days. That is part of what pushed him down the draft board and into the middle of the 2nd round. He had multiple incidents in 2011 that caused teammates to get frustrated with his lack of effort. DeSean was pouting because of his contract situation and let that affect his teammates. DeSean also has a history of being late to meetings and causing minor headaches in practice and meetings.

DeSean has no incident that comes close to Cooper’s. That was truly rock bottom for Riley Cooper. But Cooper had built up goodwill before that and he handled the aftermath of the incident in a way that allowed teammates to forgive him or at least accept him on some professional basis.

While DeSean does some good charity work and had a good image with the general public, his act had worn thin on many of the people he dealt with on a daily basis. That is part of the reason that the Eagles were able to cut him and have so little blowback from players or “sources close to the team”.

If you wanted to simplify this, you could say that DeSean has the good public image, but isn’t exactly loved by his teammates or coaches. Cooper has the bad public image, but is well-liked by his teammates and coaches. I guess not everyone gets that difference.

* * * * *

As to DeSean’s future…

That would be a great on-field addition by the Skins. RG3 is one of the better deep ball throwers in the league and DeSean is a great deep receiver. You do wonder how DeSean will be in the locker room. The Skins have a new staff and Jay Gruden isn’t a big time head coach that will naturally command respect.

If DeSean is on his best behavior, he will be a big help to the Skins in 2014.

I am curious about the money. Will he get close to what the Eagles were paying him?

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Replacing DeSean

Posted: March 31st, 2014 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 184 Comments »

Chip Kelly likes to say that the Eagles have an “equal opportunity offense”. He is open to running or passing. He doesn’t care who the ball gets thrown to. Kelly just wants to score points. He isn’t set in a particular way of getting that done. This is the key thing to remember when trying to figure out how the team will replace DeSean Jackson and his production.

Too many people have thought in a linear fashion. “The Eagles are nuts if they think some rookie can come in and replace DeSean.” The rookie will take DeSean’s roster spot, but his role in the offense will be addressed more creatively than that. If the Eagles get lucky and draft a WR that offers instant impact, great. But that won’t be the plan.

The first person to think about is Jeremy Maclin. I think people are overlooking him right now. Yes, he’s coming off a torn ACL. That’s a legitimate concern. We do have to remember that he tore his ACL last August. This wasn’t a midseason injury. Mac has had plenty of time to rehab and heal. The Eagles have been monitoring his progress carefully. They obviously feel good about him. If not, I doubt they would have tried to sign him to a 5-year deal a few weeks back. Also, you’d have to think his status had some role in the DeSean move.

Maclin isn’t as speedy or threatening as DeSean, but he is a more complete receiver. Mac runs better routes. He has better body control. He is bigger. He’s more of a Red Zone threat. The big issue with Mac is toughness. In 2011 and 2012, he wouldn’t block and he wouldn’t consistently work the middle of the field. I’ve seen Maclin do those things in the past, college and pro. I’m not sure why he went soft for 2 years. That won’t work in Kelly’s offense. I think Kelly will push the right buttons and get Maclin to be more of a physical presence. He won’t suddenly turn into Anquan Boldin, but I’m guessing that Self-Tacklin’ Jeremy Maclin will be a thing of the past.

I don’t think Maclin has reached his ceiling. He’s been consistently productive and he’s flashed big time ability on occasion, but I still think he can take his game up a notch. I don’t know if that will happen, but I think having a coach push him more aggressively will certainly increase the chances of that happening.

Kelly isn’t just replacing DeSean. Jason Avant is gone as well. Maclin will play some on the outside, but will also see some reps in the slot. I expect Darren Sproles to see regular reps in the slot. He lined up out of the backfield on a regular basis for the Saints in 2013.

I also think Kelly will use more 2-TE sets. When that happens, you are only going to have 2 WRs on the field. There could be more 3-TE sets, which would keep only a single WR on the field. Kelly used more 2-TE sets down the stretch last year. Zach Ertz started the season slowly, but became more of a factor and that affected Kelly’s use of his skill players. Ertz can line up in the slot or even out wide.

The Eagles will get Arrelious Benn back this spring. Like Mac, he tore his ACL last summer. Benn isn’t a player you can count on since he has never been an impact player in the NFL (just 24 starts in 4 years), but the Eagles do think he can be a good role player. Brad Smith is also returning. He’ll have a chance to play a full season and could be a good role player.

And the Eagles will draft at least one WR. They’ll likely do this with an early pick. We don’t know if Kelly will go for a speedster, hoping to replace that element of DeSean’s game, or if Kelly will go for more of a big, physical player. There are arguments to be made on both sides.

I’ll write more about Jackson’s speed and the impact it does or doesn’t have on the offense. Talking about his role is a post of its own. For now I wanted to concentrate on the personnel side of things.

The Eagles still have plenty of weapons. This isn’t going to be like TO leaving and Greg Lewis is suddenly asked to be an offensive weapon. The Eagles should still be able to move the ball and score plenty of points. Kelly is a smart coach. Nick Foles is a talented QB. There are good runners and good receivers.

DeSean didn’t make this offense go. He made it more explosive, but he wasn’t the key to the Eagles having such a productive season. The Eagles should have enough firepower to still be very good on offense.

* * * * *

Some of you are upset at the thought of DeSean going to the Skins. I’d prefer he go elsewhere as well, but it won’t send me over the edge to see him sign there. I always prefer ex-Eagles to go to the AFC so I can enjoy watching them play without having to think of how they are affecting the Eagles.

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The Fan Angle

Posted: March 30th, 2014 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 74 Comments »

Something funny occurred to me in the past couple of days. I’m a fan of the Eagles, but I don’t really love the players in the same way that most others do. I used to live and die with players, but that has changed over time.

My first favorite athlete was Dr. J. I could not imagine a world without him being the star of the 76ers. I was delusional when it came to him. Even in the mid-80′s I was trying to rationalize how he was better than Bird, Magic or Jordan. Clearly, that wasn’t the case. I was lucky enough to see Doc end his career as a Sixer. I hated losing him, but he went out the right way.

That wasn’t the case for Reggie White, my favorite football player of all time. He left the Eagles in 1993 as a free agent. That tested my soul. I wasn’t going to quit being an Eagles fan, but his departure troubled me beyond words. I worshiped Reggie. Seeing him play for another team was just devastating.

The last time I felt anything close to that was when Troy Vincent left after the 2003 season. He was another player I loved. I didn’t think there would be any way the Eagles would let him go. Troy was good on and off the field. Troy did leave and that bugged the heck out of me. But it also changed me.

I no longer live and die with players. Brian Dawkins left. Okay. Donovan McNabb. Okay. Brian Westbrook. Okay. And so on.

I bring this up because the reaction from some fans to certain players goes beyond logic. It gets personal. We saw this with Dawk back in 2009. The same was true for Donovan in 2010. Michael Vick didn’t even have to leave to draw a freakishly passionate response from fans. His supporters got mad any time there was even criticism of him.

And now with DeSean we’ve seen some fans that are beyond outraged. They love him as a player. The Eagles losing a valuable asset is bad enough, but losing DeSean is so much worse. The fans love his explosive speed and the flair he plays with. Even if the Eagles replace his production, they won’t come up with a player that is as much fun to watch.

I have no emotional attachment to the players. I see them as commodities. I like them. I love watching some of them play. But time has caused me to develop thick skin. Players are going to come and go.

I somewhat envy those of you who identify with players so strongly. That makes being a fan more fun. But it also makes life miserable when your guy gets benched, leaves in free agency or, shocker of shockers, simply gets cut.

If I seem cold and indifferent to players at times, it isn’t personal. I’ve got nothing against McNabb or Vick or DeSean. I loved watching them star for the Eagles. I’ll have fond memories of them for a long time. But I won’t take it personally when they leave the Eagles. I’ll keep cheering for the guys in green, hoping for new stars to emerge and take their place.

* * * * *

I do have college players that I fawn over every year, whether Eric Berry, Sean Lee or Mike Patterson. As much as I love the kids, I don’t have the same kind of emotional investment in them since I’ve not followed them the way we would an Eagles player that is here for years and years.

There are some role players on the Eagles that I love (Derek Landri, Brian Rolle, etc.), but I know those guys are role players and I keep that in mind. Those guys are always expendable.

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